As 2013 draws to a close it’s time for the obligatory top ten list. Here are my picks for the ten best movies of the year.
1. Captain Phillips
In this taught thriller directed by Paul Greengrass, Tom Hanks delivers his best performance since Cast Away. The movie is based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips. As Internet Movie Database notes,
The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.
It’s a raw physical and emotional performance that kept me on the edge of my seat. Hanks will surely get nominated for an Oscar and if he wins it will be well-deserved. Paul Greengrass continues to be the master of thrillers, especially ones based on true events. If you haven’t seen United 93 or Bloody Sunday, you should!
2. American Hustle
David O. Russell reunited with his Silver Linings Playbook stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence for this gem. The cast also features Christian Bale and Amy Adams. The story:
A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.
Irving is played by Bale, in one of the best performances of his career. Add to the mix Lawrence as Bale’s wife, Bradley Cooper as the FBI agent,and you have a recipe for greatness! American Hustle is smart,funny,sexy and crackles with great dialogue. Look for Lawrence to get yet another Oscar nomination.
3. Much Ado About Nothing
I’m generally against any modernization of Shakespeare. I’m a purist, what can I say? But every once in a while an exception comes along (West Side Story, O). One such exception is Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing. It’s probably the best movie of 2013 that no one saw. Shot in black and white in Whedon’s own house, this low-budget take on the Shakespearean comedy was one of the best surprises of the year. Look for Whedon movie and TV regulars such as Amy Acker, Clark Gregg, and Nathan Fillion, just to name a few.
4. Saving Mr. Banks
Tom Hanks was so on his game this year that two of his films made my ten best list. Saving Mr. Banks tells the back story of how the Disney classic Mary Poppins was made. It took over 20 years for Walt Disney (Hanks) to get the rights to the books by P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson). It’s a great character study of Travers and how Mary Poppins was inspired by people and events in her life. Hanks is a very convincing Disney and Thompson shines as Travers. Fair warning: bring Kleenex. This is an emotional story!
42 tells the true story of Jackie Robinson and how he broke the color barrier when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Chadwick Boseman makes for an excellent Robinson,but it’s Harrison Ford who steals the show as Dodgers executive Branch Rickey. 42 really does a great job taking us back to the era when Robinson played and makes the audience feel the weight of what he’s up against. Harrison Ford is a long-shot for an Oscar nomination and that’s a crime!
6. The Great Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann is a director who I’ve had a love-hate relationship with for a while. His modern take on Romeo and Juliet to me was a colossal failure. Moulin Rouge had great music but the love story felt flat to me. I greatly admired his movie Australia which was not a commercial success. His take on The Great Gatsby I think has the potential to go down as a classic! In the past his films have been all style and no substance. This time around his great visual eye blends well with the classic story based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name. The great cast includes Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. But the real star of the film is Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby. He captures the brooding and mysterious Gatsby just as he was written in the book. Here’s hoping Baz Luhrmann continues to make films of this quality!
7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Fresh off her Oscar-winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence returns to the role of Katniss Everdeen that made her an international star. Catching Fire tops The Hunger Games in the same way the books topped each other. After showing up the capital in the previous Hunger Games,Katniss is at the mercy of President Snow (Donald Sutherland),who is enraged that her act of rebellion has given the people of Panem hope to rise up against the tyrannical government. In the sequel the Hunger Games participants are reaped from the pool of victors. So Katniss finds herself back in the arena. This time the participants of the games face blood rain,poisoned fog,dangerous baboons,among other things. If you thought the first film had high stakes…you ain’t seen nothing yet! Lawrence continues to dazzle as Katniss and the new cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, the new gamekeeper. Catching Fire does a great job of building on the last film and setting us up for the next installment.
8. The World’s End
The World’s End is the last part of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy which included Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The World’s End is about a group of high school friends who reunite to attempt an aborted pub crawl they did their senior year of high school. The advertising made it look like a movie about nothing but binge drinking. But there’s much more to it than that! It’s about the exploration of whether you can go home again,the transition from youth to adulthood,the value of friendship,and much more. It’s a fitting end to the films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
9. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I thoroughly enjoyed the first installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy last year. While that one had to primarily focus on setup, part two gets us right into the thick of the action. The story, as noted by Internet Movie Database:
The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
The action is thrilling,the world of Middle Earth stunning to look at,and Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing as the voice of Smaug the dragon. My only complaint is that it ends where it does. It’s a real cliffhanger and we have to wait until next year to see the rest. NOOO!!!!
10. Star Trek: Into Darkness
Back in 2009 J.J. Abrams rescued the Star Trek film franchise with his great reboot. This year we finally got a sequel and it was worth the wait! The Enterprise crew are now together and are in pursuit of a villain who attacked starfleet itself (he bombs the archives early in the film). The villain turns out to be (spoiler alert!) Khan. It’s impossible for anyone to play the role as well as Ricardo Montalban, but Benedict Cumberbatch makes it his own. And Khan gets more of a back story this time around so he feels like a better-developed character. It’s easy to get lost in the great action sequences,but the film features a lot of genuinely moving moments. The cast has grown into the parts since the first installment, especially Chris Pine as Kirk. I can’t wait to see where this franchise boldly goes next!
Those are my picks! What say you? Comment below!